July 6: John Hus, Prophetic Witness and Martyr, 1415

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About this commemoration
John Hus
John Hus

John Hus (1372-1415) was a Czech priest who became leader of the Czech reform movement, which called for a return to scripture and living out of the word of God in one’s life. As preacher at Bethlehem Chapel in Prague, he talked to the people in their native language. Hundreds gathered every day to hear his call for personal and institutional reform.

Clerics he had offended had him exiled from Prague, but he continued his ministry through the written word. Hus took the radical step of appealing directly to Christ rather than to the hierarchy for the justification of his stance. When the Council of Constance opened in 1414, Hus traveled there hoping to clear his name of charges of heresy. Hus had been given a pledge of safe conduct from the emperor, but his enemies persuaded council officials to imprison him on the grounds that “promises made to heretics need not be kept.” Although several leaders of the Council of Constance were in favor of moderate church reform, the council’s prime objective was the resolution of the Great Western Schism, which had produced three rival popes at the same time. The council therefore tried to secure a speedy recantation and submission from Hus. He maintained that the charges against him were false or twisted versions of his teachings, and he could not recant opinions he had never held. Faced with an ultimatum to recant or die, Hus chose the latter. As he approached the stake on July 6, 1415, he refused a last attempt to get him to recant and said: “The principal intention of my preaching and of all my other acts or writings was solely that I might turn men from sin. And in that truth of the Gospel that I wrote, taught, and preached in accordance with the sayings and expositions of the holy doctors, I am willing gladly to die today.”
His death did not end the movement, and the Czech reformation continued. Hus’ rousing assertion “Truth will conquer!” is the motto of the Czech Republic today.
I Faithful God, who didst give John Hus the courage to
confess thy truth and recall thy Church to the image
of Christ: Enable us, inspired by his example, to bear
witness against corruption and never cease to pray for
our enemies, that we may prove faithful followers of our
Savior Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and
the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
II Faithful God, you gave John Hus the courage to confess
your truth and recall your Church to the image of Christ:
Enable us, inspired by his example, to bear witness against
corruption and never cease to pray for our enemies, that
we may prove faithful followers of our Savior Jesus Christ;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one
God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Job 22:21–30
Revelation 3:1–6
Matthew 23:34–39
Psalm 119:113–120
Preface of All Saints

Text from Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.


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19 thoughts on “July 6: John Hus, Prophetic Witness and Martyr, 1415

  1. Please find another first lesson for this feast. The lies of Eliphaz are not quite the same as the Word of the Lord (see Job 42:7). Job 22 is an especially bizarre choice for Hus, as his accusers offered him the same deal that Eliphaz and his two friends offered Job: confess to sins you have not committed, and all will be well.

  2. From what I recall from my class on Medieval “Heresy” Huss was convicted less by the council as a whole but rather by a French dominated “rump” that was looking to establish the Avignon Papacy as the defender of Orthodoxy.

    Additionally, his conviction was never fully official and in 1999 the Pope rehabilitated Huss and called him a “reformer”.

  3. A worthy addition. Well-writen biography except “Czech” … “Czech” seems repetitious in first sentence. Why are collects still being composed in archaic English??? Don’t get me wrong: I am a professional historian who specialized in 16th-17th century English history (I can even speak and write English from this period), but I do not pray in it. Surely 30 years after the BCP 79 we can move away from the Rite I, Rite II syndrome in this ancillary book.

  4. Why are you using the term “prophetic witness” so much? Are not all the Holy Men and Holy Women we commemorate prophetic witnesses is some way?

  5. Jan Hus certainly deserves to be in our calendar, especially in view of our relationship ith the Moravians.
    The collect and the readings are appropriate.. A Hussite antiphonary in thge libraey of GTS, says, in the gradual that Hus cofesses his faitth “constantly” berfore the Council [of Constance].

  6. The term “prophetic witness” was adopted from the breviary of The Order of St. Helena. Members of the committee felt this term particularly expressed the saintly quality of certain of our entries.

  7. I also find the term “prophetic witness” problematic. Who in the LFF isn’t a prophetic witness? The descriptive terms used in previous kalendars have always been fairly exact in their meanings: monk, bishop, confessor, priest, martyr, etc. If someone were to ask me why the Liturgical Commission chose Hus as a prophetic witness and not Leo the Great, I would say, “I have no idea, they probably couldn’t think of anything else to call him.”

  8. Until I read today’s commemoration, I had never heard of John Hus. I did know that heresy was punished by burning at the stake. John Hus’s refusal to recant shows his complete faith in Jesus Christ. Today’s readings are just right to honor John Hus.

  9. I agree with Richard Easterling that everyone in LFF is a prophetic witness. They differ in the times they lived in and the challenges they answered, and whether they were “monks, bishops, confessors, priests, martyrs (in that they gave their lives), etc.” I have no problem with the choice of Jan Hus! I had just read the biography written by James Kiefer accessible from the Satucket website for the Lectionary. The only problem I have with the Commission’s present biography is that his specific historic role is vague. True, he refused to recant, “showing his complete faith in Jesus Christ.” However, the specifics of what he refused to recant are essential to our understanding of how he was a prophetic witness in his time. Thanks to Leonel Mitchell for mentioning the Moravians (followers of Hus). The Moravians were more than “prophetic witnesses”: they were evangelists, preaching Christ to native Americans before the American Revolution. From what I’ve read about Hus, his emphasis on personal as well as corporate redemption makes him an “evangelist,” also.

  10. There isn’t quiet a strait line from the Urtaquists of the 16th century and the current Unitas Fratrum, but the connection is there. It is also long on trial, sort of, and short on his “radical” ideas. That he was looked to as an example by Luther and other Reformers as an example and source of ideas is skipped over.

    As for “prophetic witness” isn’t being a Martyr the definition of the ultimate form of such?

  11. I thought everything in this commemoration was appropriate, but I’m intrigued by the comment on the first reading. I’m not sure a reading with a “Wisdom” spin (agree with God and good will come your way) is the right genre. Assurance like that too often overlooks the eschatological, altogether. It might be that a lament or lamentation (over the church’s awful sin of murdering Hus in the name of God and its own vaunted and sadly mistaken shameless presumption of holiness) would be more in order.

  12. I’m wondering where the July 4 feedback is. The synopsis doesn’t talk about Independence Day, preferring instead a tangent on how the votes turned out at convention and whether Bishop White shot off fire crackers. (Okay, I’m being less than literal.) It seems if it’s in HWHM, it should be up for comment here.

    • HI John,

      We didn’t post for Independence Day because it is a feast already in the Prayer Book with its own propers. Our goal in this blog is to go through the “lesser feasts and fasts” unique to Holy Women, Holy Men. Feel free to provide comment about the Independence Day information found in Holy Women, Holy Men when you fill out the survey, or, simply make comment about it here. The Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music will certainly see your comments.

  13. One more comment, please? I think of a “martyr” as someone killed for the faith by enemies of the faith. Being burned at the stake by the church itself is more like — what? I hesitate to go with the urge to say something sarcastic (although the possibilities are endless), yet I don’t feel “martyr” is the correct word to use, either.

    Also, second thought on a possible OT change. Instead of a Wisdom selection, would one of the servant songs, or possibly Jeremiah’s complaint to God about how awful it has been even though he feels compelled to speak God’s word, be a suitable possible alternative for the reading?

  14. Like Dean Petersen I agree that John Hus deserves inclusion. I question the use of birth/death dates in parentheses. This is common in many historical references (including the Hymnal 1982) but I don’t recall it being used in editions of LFF over the last fifty years.

  15. Consideration should be given to using Hus’s given name of “Jan”, rather than the English version..

    Other sources give the year of his birth as 1369, 1370, and 1371–see below.

    Line 1, first paragraph: delete “(1372-1415)”– see below.

    Line 3, first paragraph: add a new sentence “Hus was born at Husinec in Bohemia c. 1369”

  16. I was glad to see Hus included, but nearly missed who he was as there was no mention of the Moravians, influence on him by Wyckliffe, or his influence on Luther and other reformers. For many folks, ALL they ever hear of these saints is what they hear when they are mentioned in the calendar from LFF or HWHM, and it does a disservice when there’s no context for relaitonship to other parts of the church, other parts of history, etc.

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